BBG Watch, an independent website edited by employees and former employees of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a federal agency in charge of U.S. international broadcasts, has learned that a group of young Radio Liberty listeners and users of its website is relying on Facebook and other social media to organize a demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Tuesday, starting at 2 PM Moscow time. They want to express their solidarity with RFE/RL journalists like Kristina Gorelik, Elena Vlasenko and others (seen in this photo), who were previously covering anti-Kremlin protests in which these Radio Liberty listeners participated. About 40 Radio Svoboda broadcasters, website editors and technical staffers — almost the entire staff in Moscow — were fired or resigned in protest and their programs suddenly canceled. Security guards especially hired for this purpose by the RFE/RL’s American management prevented these journalists, who specialized in human rights reporting, from saying good bye to their radio and website audience. Many of these journalists were young, as are the organizers of Tuesday’s protest action in front of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

A group of major opposition political leaders in Russia is planning to issue a letter of protest on Wednesday, BBG Watch has learned. Some, like former President Mikhail Gorbachev, have already criticized the actions of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty executives. The decision to fire journalists and to cancel Radio Liberty’s human rights and other programs was made by RFE/RL President Steven Korn. The action in Moscow was overseen by RFE/RL Vice President Julia Ragona. The Broadcasting Board of Governors in Washington may not have been aware of the scope of the special operation conducted in Moscow by RFE/RL executives but took no action to reverse it despite numerous protests from human rights leaders. Some described the action as a crime against human decency. Others said that the RFE/RL management did more damage to the reputation of Radio Liberty and the image of America in Russia than the old KGB and the FSB, the security service in Putin’s Russia.

One of the coordinators of the protest is a young Russian university student, Kirill Filimonov, who is majoring in journalism and who previously had worked as an intern in Moscow with the now fired Radio Liberty journalists. He wrote to BBG Watch:

“This little demonstration has two goals: firstly, we ask the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to re-employ the fired journalists, bring them back; secondly, we do not want the medium wave (AM) broadcasting to stop.

We do understand that this [cessation of medium wave broadcasting] will happen due to the changes in Russian laws, but we want to persuade the American authorities to talk about this issue with their Russian government counterparts.

No one can be considered as the organizer of tomorrow’s event, although there are a couple of coordinators. This is why the demonstration does not have a strict schedule.

We just ask people who enjoyed listening to Radio Svoboda (Radio Liberty) to express themselves. We cannot say whether anyone from the Embassy will come out to talk to us, but a petition and placards are now being prepared. No doubt, we will take photos and make videos tomorrow (Tuesday) and post them online.

You also asked me to write a bit about myself. I am a student of Higher School of Economics, a university located in Moscow. I major in journalism and did three month-long internships at the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Moscow bureau in 2010, 2011, and 2012. I enjoyed the professionalism of the former Radio Liberty staff and miss it a lot. So do many, many other radio listeners and website visitors in Russia.

Thank you for your interest in our event.

Best regards,

Kirill

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